Keepers' Diaries, June 2013

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Voi Reintegration Unit

16 Keeper Dependent Orphans remain based at night at the Voi Stockades, 8 of whom are still milk dependent. Lesanju is the main female Matriarch backed up by her best friend, Lempaute, and big girls Wasessa, and Sinya, with younger girls Kenia, Ndii, Kivuko and Panda still milk dependent. Young bulls are Shimba (still recuperating from a lion mauling), his friend Mzima (in the absence of Shimba as a Pushing Partner, now eager to upgrade himself to the Ex Orphans), Taveta, Tassia, Dabassa, Rombo, and Layoni plus the newcomer who came in at the end of the month, named Mbirikani, all of whom are still milk dependent.

16 Keeper Dependent Orphans remain based at night at the Voi Stockades, 8 of whom are still milk dependent. Lesanju is the main female Matriarch backed up by her best friend, Lempaute, and big girls Wasessa, and Sinya, with younger girls Kenia, Ndii, Kivuko and Panda still milk dependent. Young bulls are Shimba (still recuperating from a lion mauling), his friend Mzima (in the absence of Shimba as a Pushing Partner, now eager to upgrade himself to the Ex Orphans), Taveta, Tassia, Dabassa, Rombo, and Layoni plus the newcomer who came in at the end of the month, named Mbirikani, all of whom are still milk dependent.

It has also been an action packed month for the Voi Unit, with many wild elephant herds around Mazinga Hill during the first half of the month, included amongst whom was Emily’s Unit of Ex Orphans. There were obviously females in season in some of wild herds, so the Wild Big Boys were in evidence, causing mayhem amongst the Ex Orphans and Juniors as well, since both Edie and Sweet Sally were also obviously in an interesting condition. Both were being pursued ruthlessly at the beginning of June, with two Big Wild Bulls in attendance, the largest of which was keeping Sweet Sally close. When the Ex Orphan herd came to join the Juniors at their noon mudbath on the 5th, the Younger of the two was bent on poor Edie, who was reluctant to accommodate his advances, trying to shelter amongst Lesanju’s Juniors where the Big Boyfriend caught up with her and mounted her, something that unraveled Lesanju and the Junior girls all of whom rushed to their Keepers for protection! Later that same day as the Juniors were returning to Mazinga Hill to browse, a panic-struck wild cow who normally has 3 calves with her, (the youngest of which is just 3 weeks), rushed in amongst Lesanju’s group screaming in a state of distress, searching for all three of her calves who must have somehow become mixed up in amongst another of the many other wild groups oin the vicinity! Despite Lesanju’s best attempts to avoid interacting with wild elephants the day before, the Juniors found themselves surrounded, including two Big Bulls who were sizing up the wild females and homed in on Lesanju who was distracted at the time by a small wild baby. She fled screaming, after which the two Bulls then engaged one another in a fierce battle which made all the wild cows rush around trying to round up their offspring in order to remove them from the scene of conflict! Lesanju’s fearful exit also sent her group screaming with fear and rushing back to their Keepers who were watching events from a vantage point higher up the Hill!

On the 7th Sweet Sally was amongst the Ex Orphans when they came to drink at the Stockades, her wild Boyfriend keeping a watchful eye on her from a safe distance wary of the Keepers moving around the compound. His absence gave 14 year old Laikipia, (the oldest Ex Orphan Boy in Emily’s Unit), a chance to try his luck on Sweet Sally. He then began to chase Sally, Emily backed up by her daughter Eve doing her best to prevent such harassment, but they proved no match for the determined Laikipia who caught up with poor Sally and began to mount her. However, the wild Boyfriend was having none of it, and arrived in time to drive Laikipia off Sally and engage him in a fierce fight. The entire scene soon became obscured from view in a cloud of dust with piercing elephant screaming! Whether Laikipia sustained any injuries is not yet known, for he managed to escape, after which Sally was escorted off by the wild Bull having not even had a chance to drink at the Stockade trough. Both had soon disappeared in the bush.

During all the Mating Mayhem of the month, all the younger Ex Orphan Boys took to traveling separately as a Bachelor Group, careful to keep a safe distance from the randy Big Boys. That said, while Lesanju’s girls fled the chaos of the mudbath scene of the 5th, the Junior Boys in her group were clearly fascinated by what was going on and refused to come when called by the Keepers, instead remaining amongst the Ex Orphan group, Mzima especially tempted to upgrade himself to the Sernior set now that his best friend and Pushing Partner, Shimba, is recuperating back at the Stockades. However, all eventually returned to Lesanju and the Junior girls!

The Ex Orphans were frequent visitors to the Stockade water trough during the first half of the month, on one occasion upon finding it empty, Mvita, Lolokwe and Emily’s baby Eve stood in it blowing air through their trunks to signal the Keepers that they wanted it re-filled!

The Voi Elephant Keepers were embroiled in two Orphan Rescues this month, the first in response to a report on the 20th from the Ziwani area of Tsavo West National Park where a lone 2 year old orphan had been spotted. A car journey of 3 hours meant that it was late afternoon by the time the Rescuers arrived, the orphan having disappeared some 3 hours earlier, so it was a question of trying to follow the footprints. The calf was eventually located near the Tsavo river, and once the team had regrouped, it was successfully subdued and loaded into the Pickup vehicle with its legs bound for the journey back. Sadly, the trauma of losing its elephant family plus the capture and long grueling car journey back all proved too much for this unfortunate baby, who collapsed and died early the following morning.

The next rescue was at the end of the month, this time of another two year old female calf from the Chyulu area who had been rendered more or less immobile by a hugely swollen right front leg, obviously due to a wire snare over which the skin had already grown. This baby must have suffered terribly for a very long time. The KWS Vet attached to the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit was called in for this case and in order to be able to deal with the injured calf, he had to first immobilize its very possessive mother. The wire, which had cut through the flesh right to the bone, was successfully removed, and the wound cleaned and stritched. Having been given a long acting antibiotic injection, the calf and its mother were both then resuscitated. The Mother instantly ran off at speed to rejoin her herd, leaving her injured calf behind who was unable to follow since she could barely even put the injured foot to the ground. By then it was becoming dark, so the decision was made to rescue the calf as an orphan, since she would otherwise simply fall victim to either lions or hyaenas during the night, and in any case the wound would need further intervention for any hope of affording this young elephant a second chance of life. She was therefore sedated for the drive back to the Voi Stockades that night, and at the time of writing is settling down and doing well.

As usual, the newcomer, (named Mbirikani (after the name of a village near where she was found) was very warmly welcomed by Lesanju’s Keeper Dependent Orphans, and especially by Wasessa who attempted to break down the door to her Stockade in order to set her free to join them. Wasessa was also first back in the evening to check up on her, monopolizing Kenia’s abutting Stockade in the process, until the Keepers persuaded her to return to her own Night quarters rather than disrupt the night for Kenia and her milk dependent peers.

Shimba’s lion mauls are healing well, although the skin has closed over one earhole, which may have to be opened up at a later date. He continues to hang out with little Panda, the two browsing close to the stockades rather than traveling further afield with the other Juniors. Panda has improved greatly from being with Shimba, and this month has also enjoyed a gentle wrestling game with Tassia which was carefully supervised by Wasessa to ensure that Tassia did not push too hard. Panda has also enjoyed playing with Ndii, both bigger elephants allowing her to feel good about her pushing prowess which makes her happy! It is very touching how the older elephants accommodate the babies in this way.

Despite the dry season tightening its grip, the Big Waterhole has still been the main milk and mudbath venue this month, in between the Stockade mudbath which is the usual venue when local school groups come to see the Orphans, which has happened on several occasions this month. At the Big Waterhole, the younger milk dependents’ milk is transported there by car, while the Tractor towing a small bowser brings in the water to fill the drinking barrels each day. Wild elephants have become wise to the fact that fresh water is available in the barrels, so the orphans often arrive to find the bins empty, which necessitates either a second tractor trip or leaving a Keeper to guard the barrels!

Although Lesanju is usually not anxious to mingle with wild herds for fear of having some of her “family” snatched from her, there are a few very friendly wild herds with whom she enjoys fraternizing where the wild Cows are happy to allow her and the other Junior Girls to Nannie-sit their small calves while the Junior Boys are allowed to spar with age-mates within the wild family. The Juniors have enjoyed time with such friendly wild herds on three occasions this month, (11th, 16th and 25th) the last occasion disrupted by the unexpected appearance of a Big Bull which prompted rapid separation! The Juniors also interacted on the 3rd with a wild family of 8, (until a randy wild bull scared Sinya and Wasessa) and on the 12th with 2 wild cows and their calves. Wild elephants have been to drink at stockades on two occasions, warmly welcomed by Ndii who is obviously familiar with their small wild baby.

The Ex Orphans came to the Stockades on the 8th with a wild Bull who was paying a lot of attention to Mweya and who appeared to have a healed arrow wound, but was otherwise in good condition and was sufficiently calm to drink from the Stockade trough. On the 12th Ex Orphan Tsavo came alone, fraternizing with both Shimba and Panda briefly. Shimba declined a Pushing Match invitation, walking away to leave Panda entertaining Tsavo until he decided to leave. Following the debacle with Ex Orphan Laikipia and Sally’s wild Boyfriend, which took place on the 15th, the Ex Orphans seem to have moved off along with many of the wild herds in search of better pasture.

Pushing Games dominate the time of the Junior Boys, Rombo and Dabassa great rivals in this respect, although their games are often disrupted by Taveta until one day they decided to join forces and managed to see him off in order to continue their game! An amusing occasion took place at the mudbath when Taveta upset Rombo who ran off screaming a message to the rest of the group who were browsing some distance away. What was said to them had an unexpected response, because they all instantly charged in unison to surround Taveta, with tails up and ears out! Taveta took the hint and hurriedly made good his escape to spend “time out” until all was forgiven and forgotten! Rombo must have had a convincing complaint!

June 2013 day to day

01 Jun

The Juniors headed out to browse the slopes of Mazinga hill at dawn, wild herds plentiful in the area, with whom they could have fraternized had they so wished, but for Lesanju’s reluctance to share her adopted family fearing that they could be “snatched”. (Mzima attached himself to Emily’s Ex Orphan Unit and but the Keepers called him back, Big Boy Laikipia doing his best to dissuade him from returning and a wild cow attached to the Ex Orphan Unit threatening the Keepers briefly, but taking her cue from the Ex Orphans, then walked back calmly. Meanwhile Lesanju and the other Juniors were at the mudbath, Lesanju remaining behind to scratch her body against a tree until the Ex Orphan group turned up, Mzima in amongst them. Immediately, she ran into the herd to welcome Mzima and check on him, after which all the Orphans enjoyed wallowing together until the Ex Orphans left, taking Mzima off with them). Young Junior Boys Dabassa, Tassia, Taveta, Layoni and Rombo often try to sneak away when Lesanju and the girls are otherwise occupied, in order to wrestle without interruption and this merely adds to Lesanju’s fears of losing her family.

Mzima with Laikipia

Lesanju browsing

Dabassa striding away